Breathing in yoga pose

Breathing in Asana

Published on
April 3, 2011

Our natural tendency is to hold the breath or use stress induced breathing (short and shallow) while holding a posture, especially in a challenging pose. This creates stress and tension in the body. In yoga, we want to create a calm and relaxed body, breath and mind through the conscious use of the breath.

There are several ways to breathe in asanas, and these will differ with teacher and tradition. I like to emphasize different breathing techniques or pranayamas while holding different postures. Most importantly, find a breath that supports your goal/intention that you are invoking for the pose and/or yoga practice.

• Use Dirga pranayama in most postures. Focus on actively breathing into the chest in backbends and chest opening poses (pigeon, yoga mudra, warrior I, fish, bridge). For forward folding postures and belly down postures you can focus on just breathing into the belly (child, forward fold, cobra, boat)

• Use Ujjiaj pranayama when holding strength building postures to increase endurance and focus (downward dog, standing squat, warrior III, warrior I, sun salutations).

• Use Kapalabhati Pranayama when you want to intensify holding a pose and to strongly activate the prana in the body.  Kapalabhati can also create a strong focus during an challenging pose to allow us to stay present with the posture.

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9 responses to “Breathing in Asana”

  1. Magie60 Avatar

    I am new on yoga. Well I have being practicing for a few months and I love it. I am learning how to breath.
    When you talk about differents breathing I get a little confused. But I am learning, and I know that I will get to know the differences in the different techniques.

  2. katie05 Avatar

    thank you for the well organized and detailed explanations for us beginners. I noticed the Ujjiaj pranayama link does not seem to be working. Where can I find more information about this type of breathing?

  3. Timothy Avatar

    katie05 – I’ve updated the link to Ujjiaj pranayama page and also added info on Kapalabhati Pranayama. Thanks for pointing out that broken link!

  4. raisa Avatar

    i want to know brief about yoga

  5. hottap47 Avatar

    do you have a pose to relieve lower back pain

  6. striker143 Avatar

    Am kinda lost cos have never practiced YOGA but have of the benefits. How do i get started? I hope is not addictive cos i get lost in anything that catch my interest.

  7. Timothy Avatar

    raisa and striker143 – Please read our beginner guide at:

    hottap47 – Please look at our yoga therapy guide for back pain at:

  8. Manasi Avatar

    Namaskar Timothy,

    It’s been great reading your articles. It would be great if you could please help me with my query regarding breathing.
    I do understand that every pose and very movement in Yoga should be practiced in combination with the Prescribed way of breathing. So, I want to understand how does Breathing in a Certain way while doing poses, help our body, mind & spirit. So, basically I want to understand what exactly happens at Physical level, Mind level and Spiritual level when we perform the poses/ movements/ kriyas along with the prescribe Breathing.. At present I am reading a book on Pranayam by Swami Sivananada, but So far I haven’t been able to find an answer to this question. It would be great if you could help.

    Looking forward to hear from you.

    Best regards,

    1. Timothy Burgin Avatar
      Timothy Burgin

      Hi Manasi,

      Thanks for the great question. I will work on an article to explain the physical, mental, emotional, energetic and spiritual effects of breathing and yoga asana.
      In the meantime, check out this article:

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Timothy Burgin Avatar
About the author
Timothy Burgin is a Kripalu & Pranakriya trained yoga instructor living and teaching in Asheville, NC. Timothy has studied and taught many styles of yoga and has completed a 500-hour Advanced Pranakriya Yoga training. Timothy has been serving as the Executive Director of since 2000. He has authored two yoga books and has written over 500 articles on the practice and philosophy of yoga. Timothy is also the creator of Japa Mala Beads and has been designing and importing mala beads since 2004.
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